Espionage as a Sovereign Right Under International Law and Its Limits

ILSA Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp. 22-28, 2016

7 Pages Posted: 15 May 2016 Last revised: 16 May 2016

See all articles by Asaf Lubin

Asaf Lubin

Yale University, Law School, Students; Yale University - Information Society Project; Privacy International

Date Written: February 1, 2016


In this article I propose a new approach to the scholarly debate on the international law of peacetime espionage. The paper first introduces the notion of a "Jus Ad Explorationem", or a right to spy, as a sovereign right within the domaine réservé of States. I contend that the existence of the right finds its underpinning in both historical and contemporary international law. Moreover I argue that by acknowledging spying as an acta jure imperii, a power exclusively granted to sovereign nations, we would finally be able to move away from the paralyzing debate as to the lawfulness of spying and begin drafting meaningful regulations on the way States enjoy their right to spy.

The ILSA Quarterly is the official publication of the International Law Students Association, and this work was produced as part of the author's broader role in drafting the compromis for the 2016 Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The year's problem was titled "The Case Concerning the Frost Files", and focused on the international law surrounding espionage, mass surveillance, and cyber operations. The final round of the 2016 Jessup case, which paralleled the 110th ASIL Annual Meeting, was judged by ICJ judges Hisashi Owada, Christopher Greenwood, and Bruno Simma.

Keywords: Espionage, Intelligence, International Law, Foreign Relations, Diplomacy

Suggested Citation

Lubin, Asaf, Espionage as a Sovereign Right Under International Law and Its Limits (February 1, 2016). ILSA Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp. 22-28, 2016. Available at SSRN:

Asaf Lubin (Contact Author)

Yale University, Law School, Students ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Yale University - Information Society Project ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Privacy International ( email )

62 Britton street
London, eC1m 5uy
United Kingdom

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